Draft Outline

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Brandy and Catherine have been exchanging drafts of a rough outline for the textbook. Some chapters still need more fleshing out, but this seems a good time to ask our colleagues whether this looks like a good direction. You can see the outline in a Word document here.

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Please post your ideas about content and structure as comments to this blog entry.

Chapter One Draft


When we met in small groups last year, many instructors said they wished the textbook had a brief introductory chapter letting students know why they are in 1120 and explaining what will be asked of them. I've taken a run at a draft and would be grateful for any feedback. Is this the sort of thing you're looking for?

You can read it here. You may have to log in to see it.

I'm used to having my work edited and probably won't get my back up or be hurt by constructive criticism. I really welcome collaboration on this project.

I'm going to try this chapter out on my 1120 students this week and will let you know how that goes. If you do the same, will you let us know how it worked in your class?

Learning by Example


In all the small group discussions last semester, Writ 1120 instructors asked for change when it comes to the samples in the book. There was consensus, for example, that the Y2K samples are dated.

But there was not consensus about how or even whether we should present sample papers in the book.

Samples or Not?

One instructor recently expressed the fear that if we put sample papers in the book, students will give them to their friends at other schools who will use them to plagiarize. This instructor also raised the concern that students "copy" sample papers, just replacing their topic and keywords for the ones in the sample paper, so they should not be allowed to take samples home but should only look at them in class.

Real Student Papers?

Another instructor recently raised the concern that students would be unhappy if they agreed to the use of their papers in the textbook, and then the text criticized the papers. Perhaps we would be better off inventing samples, rather than using students' papers, if we put them in the book at all.

How to Present Samples

Some instructors (and students) have requested that the book include both good samples and bad. I'm not sure we agree on what that would mean.

Some instructors have suggested that some of the sample papers in the book be annotated and some not. The ones without annotation could be used in class; students could be asked to respond to them and determine for themselves whether the paper effectively met the assignment's requirements.

One suggestion that came up in the meetings was that there be no samples in the book's chapters, but that there be an appendix made up of a series of papers that instructors could choose to use or not use.

Another suggestion was that there be an electronic database of samples that instructors could choose and use as they liked. The book could then have samples or not. One concern raised about the database approach was how we'd choose what to put in it. If it included papers that demonstrated common pitfalls, for example, new, inexperienced instructors might unwittingly present these as "good" papers.

Your Thoughts

Please weigh in. What does your ideal textbook do with samples? Where do the samples come from?

Sample Papers

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We've finally got a copyright release form we can use when asking students for permission to use their papers in future classes, for assessment, or in the textbook.

I've posted it on the Moodle site for the 1120 Textbook Revision.

What Moodle site? Brandy made a site where we can post sample papers. Now that we have the permission form, I've made that site visible to you.

If you find Moodle convenient, please post possible sample papers there. If you don't, please send them to Catherine or Brandy. I'm also glad to just email you the permission form.

Sample Topics


The library is revising its 1120 curriculum and is looking for sample paper topics. If you'd like to share topics you commonly get from your students or use as examples in class, you can post here or send a note to Avesa, our DUS.


Common pitfalls


Brandy and I have been talking about putting call-out boxes in each chapter of College Writing that list "common pitfalls" in student writing. For example, in discussing how to formulate a workable thesis, we might list such common problems as:

  • too broad
  • not feasible
  • matter of individual opinion
  • moral argument
  • explanatory rather than argumentative (x is important; people need to know about x)

Or in discussing outlining, we might list common problems with claims:

  • claim too broad
  • claim irrelevant to thesis
  • claims too similar to each other
  • claims not in full sentences

What are some common pitfalls in students run into when writing 1120 papers that you think are worth warning them about?

chicken or egg?


One question we've been kicking around as we work on an outline for the textbook is this:

Should the critical analysis paper come before the topic proposal?

So often, students don't do enough research before writing their topic proposals. I require them to demonstrate that there are relevant scholarly articles and that they are entering an existing debate, but it's a lot to ask when they haven't yet wrestled with critically reading sources and they are also writing their first argumentative essay of the semester.

I wonder if it wouldn't work better to have them write an argument about an article first, and from there move on to write the research proposal. The research proposal seems more complex to me.

Students would not necessarily have to have settled on a topic when they do their critical analysis paper. In fact, doing the paper could help lead toward a better topic.

What do you think?

Chapter One


One thing nearly everyone asked for in the textbook revision is an introductory chapter that sets up what academic writing is and why anyone would bother to do it.

What do you tell your students about that? Do you have them read anything? Can you point us to resources you've found helpful in explaining how college writing differs from high school writing (or differs from writing in other contexts students might already be familiar with)?

Lit review?


Some instructors have students write a literature review rather than a comparative analysis paper. Should the textbook include material about how to write a literature review?

Small group feedback

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We thought you might like to see what your colleagues had to say in the small group meetings about the Writ 1120 text. We have many pages of notes, so we tried winnowing down to some of the most common suggestions. They were:

  • Add an introductory chapter that helps give students context

  • Improve visual appeal: more summary boxes, annotations, less text per page.

  • Include more examples of student work, annotating some or all of them.

  • Use different examples of published writing (delete Y2K, for example).

  • Add "analysis" to CSC - CSAC.

  • Make a distinction between paraphrasing and summarizing.

  • Add material on quoting effectively.

  • Add material on critical reading, annotating texts, how to read academic writing.

  • Strengthen material on introductions and conclusions.

  • Add and strengthen material on argument.

  • De-link chapters and assignments. Focus chapters on concepts and skills, not papers.

  • Include periodic review of previous concepts; show more explicitly how each assignment builds on previous skills.

If you'd like to see all of the notes, we're happy to share them. Does this cover the major things you'd like changed? What else do you think is crucial?

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Recent Comments

  • mlynch: Agreed about it being succinct, accessible, and awesome. I particularly read more
  • Catherine: Thanks, Gwen. That sounds like sort of a vote of read more
  • hobe0039: I like this draft as well. I had my students read more
  • arockwel: I second Susan's entry. I love it. It is succinct, read more
  • Catherine: Thanks, Susan! I had my students read the draft as read more
  • speralad: Catherine- I think you've done a wonderful job writing this read more
  • Catherine: Even if we wind up making up examples for the read more
  • dbeard: Woot for the awesome level of collegiality on this blog! read more
  • Brandy Hoffmann: Catherine: Let me know what I can do to help read more
  • arockwel: Catherine: If you are leaning toward creating your own examples, read more



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